We received a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 relating to assistance for staff members with the payment of school fees for their children.
We released the following information on 10 August 2010.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) International Group is the main overseas arm of the Agency and plays a key role in exporting the UK border. Specifically our 2,800 staff run visa operations in 135 countries, identifying illegal activity involving goods and people and work on policy development and bilateral engagement.
Each year International Group posts a number of Agency employees to work overseas. These employees are recruited mainly from Border Force and Immigration Group with a small number directly from International Group itself.
The postings are usually for 3 years with the option of an additional year. Once posted, most employees are transferred to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office payroll and receive the same allowances as Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff. There are a small number of International Group staff and other Agency staff who remain on the Home Office payroll whilst posted abroad. Again the Foreign and Commonwealth Office determines eligibility for these staff to claim costs for school fees and administers the payments. A breakdown of the numbers of staff who claim school fees and how much this costs is not held centrally within the Agency.
The Agency also has a number of employees posted overseas to the juxtaposed immigration controls in Belgium and France. Their overseas postings are administered differently to those of International Group/other staff. Responses to the questions in relation to the juxtaposed controls staff are set out below.
- Under what circumstances does the Department assist staff members with the payment of school fees for their children? Officers on long term postings to the juxtaposed controls in Belgium and France may have school fees paid for by the Agency. School fees are charged by English speaking schools in both countries. Local State schools are free and some officers choose to send their children to these for full immersion.
- Does the Department specify which schools the children attend, or is the choice left to the parents? If the department does have a list of schools it approves, please detail that list. The department relies upon lists provided by the British Embassies in Brussels and Paris (thus Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommended schools as for International Group above). The choice of local state school or British Education Private schools is left to the parents.
- How are the payments made? Are they taxable? The Agency receives an annual invoice for the school year directly from the school and, the payment is made directly to the school. There is no VAT on the fees.
- Is there a cap on termly allowances - and if so, what is that cap? There is no cap.
- What system of checks does the department employ to ensure that payments given to employees for school fees are used for that purpose? The Agency pays the schools directly and the officers are not expected to pay any fees. The payments cease when children are no longer attending the school.
- Does the department offer any assistance with travel expenses for children of employees - for example for them to travel between home and school or for school uniform/trips/equipment? If so, what has been the cost of this assistance over the last five financial years? The Department does not offer such assistance.
- Does the department offer any financial support to offspring of employees who are studying at university? To include travel expenses to reach their families in holiday time. If so, what has been the cost of this support for each of the last five financial years? The Agency would cover the cost of a “children’s journey” at the end of each of term for university educated UK-based dependants so they may visit their parents overseas. To date, such costs have not been incurred by the Agency in respect of juxtaposed controls posts in Belgium or France.